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The State of our Schools

Are You Worried Our Children Will Not Be Prepared for Well-Paying Jobs with Good Benefits?

I recently read an interesting article by Greg Childress on that described creative and ambitious steps being taken by the Bertie school system. Bertie County is one of the ten poorest counties in the state (7th out of 100), while Harnett County is a median wealth county (45th out of 100).Despite this difference, the public schools in both counties have been designated by the NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) as low performing school districts.

Bertie County had long struggled in providing affordable housing for teachers, leading to difficulties in retaining and recruiting educators. Factors contributing to this issue include the lack of a supplement budget for teacher salaries, making the district less competitive regionally. In the 2021-22 school year, the county had the second-highest teacher attrition rate in the state, at 25.8%, and was rated as a "low-performing" district by the NCDPI. Sound familiar?

In 2019, Dr. Otis Smallwood became the new School Superintendent and began advocating for funding from county commissioners for teacher supplements. Bertie County was one of three counties in the state without local teacher supplements at the time. Additionally, in 2019, the county initiated a teacher housing project, which was interrupted by the pandemic but resumed in 2023. The project resulted in the completion of a 24-unit apartment complex set to open in July 2024, offering below-market rents to teachers.

I'm heartened to see Bertie County making strides to improve their education program. Harnett County faces similar challenges, yet we have not effectively tackled them.

Here is the state of things in Harnett public schools:

To address the current challenges facing Harnett County Schools, we must explore innovative solutions that prioritize the well-being and satisfaction of our teachers. Instead of offering a mere $90 raise, we should consider implementing a more substantial salary increase or providing additional benefits to attract and retain talented educators.

Drawing inspiration from successful initiatives like Bertie County's teacher housing project, we should explore creative avenues to supplement teacher pay. This could involve partnerships with local businesses, community fundraising efforts, or grant opportunities to provide financial incentives beyond traditional salary structures.

By thinking outside the box and prioritizing the needs of our teachers, we can cultivate a supportive and thriving educational environment in Harnett County Schools.

I'd like to hear about your experiences with our schools. Are you satisfied with the quality of your child’s education? Please share what's working and what needs improvement. If you have ideas on how to improve our schools, please share them.

If you share my concerns, then let’s work together. 

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